Sunday, December 27, 2009
AN EDUCATION / ****
Distributor: Sony Classics
Release Date: October 9, 2009
Genre: Period Drama
Running Time: 95 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Sometimes performances come along that are destined to be iconic in the annals of film history. The 24-year-old Carey Mulligan delivers such a performance in Lone Scherfig’s “An Education.”
Mulligan plays Jenny, a teenage girl living in early 1960s London. Jenny is seemingly wise beyond her years, with an interest in all things French – poetry, music, film. Her father Jack (the great Alfred Molina) only encourages her do succeed in things that will look good on her resume. He desperately wants his daughter to get into Oxford, a sentiment echoed by her teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams).
Jenny has ambitions that may not line up with what her parents or teachers envision for her. Enter David (Peter Sarsgaard), a 30-something man who spots Jenny waiting for a bus in the rain with her cello. He professes to be a music lover worried about her cello, and eventually coaxes Jenny into his upscale car and gives her a ride home.
Despite their age difference, an immediate connection is forged between the two. David has seemingly experienced everything that Jenny longs for, and she sees him as her ticket to that lifestyle. For his part, David never comes off as a lecherous creep, but as a man eager to share his good fortune with s partner he finds deserving. Observe the scene in which Jenny informs him of her sexual intentions, and David’s reactions never strike a false note. It is truly a remarkable performance by Sarsgaard, one of the most underrated actors working today.
The same can be said for Molina and Cara Seymour as Jenny’s parents. They too are seduced by David’s charm, but only allow their daughter to spend time with this older man because they truly believe it is what’s best for her. Molina is long overdue for an Oscar nomination and I would love to see it happen here.
The screenplay by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”), from a memoir by Lynn Barber, sidesteps the usual conventions that lesser writers may have used as crutches. He’s helped in great part by the actors, who all embody their characters with an honesty that strikes to the core.
All in all, the film succeeds to the luminous leading lady, Carey Mulligan. Comparisons to Audrey Hepburn are inevitable, and I am truly excited to see where her career goes from here, after she lands what is sure to be her first Oscar nomination. Watching her Jenny gain “An Education” is one of the most rewarding film experiences this year.
Theater: AMC Oakview Plaza 24, Omaha, NE
Time: 445 pm
Date: November 29, 2009